Sulwe is the colour of midnight. Her mama is the colour of dawn, her father the colour of dusk and her little sister is the colour of high noon. Sulwe has darker skin than anyone in her family and pretty much everyone at school. While her little sister is given positive nicknames like ‘ray’ and ‘sunshine’, Sulwe is called ‘darkie’ and ‘night’. This is obviously deeply hurtful to the little girl, who remains withdrawn and friendless.
Sulwe tries a number of things to lighten her skin – she rubs herself with an eraser until her skin hurts, she steals her mother’s makeup, she eats only light, pale-coloured foods (hoping to change herself from the inside out) and she prays earnestly to God to perform a miracle and lighten her skin so she’ll look more like her sister. Sadly, the next day, Sulwe’s skin is still as dark as before.
Sulwe’s mother sees her daughter’s sadness and reminds her that her name means ‘star’ and says: “Real beauty comes from your mind and heart, begin with how you see yourself, not how others see you.” That night, as Sulwe is trying to sleep, a shooting star comes to her window and takes her on a magical journey.
Sulwe learns the ancient story of sisters Day and Night, who lived together at the beginning of time. Night became sick of the people calling her unkind names and clearly preferring her sister Day to her, so she left and went away. After an extended period of only daylight, people came to understand just how much they had lost. Day searches for her sister and manages to persuade her to come back. The People rejoice because they now understand how much they need and cherish Night. “Some light can only be seen in the dark.”
Sulwe wakes the next morning, happy and confident. She can always remember the lesson she learned from the fable by looking up at the starlit sky.
Full review on my blog.